The history of Havlicek library after his death

The fate of the personal library of Karel Havlicek Borovsky (1821-1856) was sad. Karel Havlicek Borovsky died soon after returning from Brixen, where he was exiled for his opinions by the Austrian police.

There are many information on the dissolution of this unique library complex, of which only a small part exists today. One of them is a report of J. Novacek on how he bought at a second-hand bookshop run by R. Heger a book entitled J.Ch. Jordan, De originibus slavics I: Introduction in origines slavicas. The book was autographed by K. Havlicek and included the following note "Z knih Hawljčkowých 1839 kaupena v Pribyslawe". Novacek also found in the "cellars of the second-hand bookstore" Hajek´s translation of Lukiano (published in 1832) autographed by Havlicek and Polish katechism ke cti cezara. His article finishes with the following sentence: "How many memories of Havlicek have been drowned among waste paper and dusty junk!"[1].

On 1 August 1857, after Havlicek´s death, the Notary and Court Commissioner Dr. Wrzak made a list of all Havlicek´s left estate, including the library. The value of the library was estimated at 103 guldens, 34 kreutzers and it was sold for 436 guldens, 3 kreutzars during a three-day auction. The inventory of books from Havlicek´s left estate and the auction list give us a picture of Havlicek library at the time of his death. In 1909, both these lists were copied by a National Museum worker Josef Vejvara (the lists were on Havlicek´s left estate file kept in the cellar of Prague Nove Mesto District Court). Josef Vejvara published in Narodni listy details from the Havlicek´s left estate file[2] and intended to publish also a list of Havlicek library. He handed his manuscript to Prof. C. Zibrt (who was an editor of Musea kralovstvi ceskeho magazine), but the text remained unpublished. The manuscript was later forwarded (with Zibrt´s left estate) to the National Museum Library. It seemed that the original file, which served as a base for Vejvara´s manuscript (one copy of which possesses also the Highlands Museum at Havlickuv Brod), has been lost. However, it was found in the Literary Archive of the Museum of Czech Literature together with documents from K.H. Borovsky´s left estate.

Information from the left estate file indicate that all books from Havlicek library were sent to a public auction. The police confiscated several volumes considered problematic. Some publications were marked in red by the censor, but then they were probably overlooked by inventory makers as later they were included in the auction.

The following publications were objected against by the censorship office (harassing Havlicek for many years):

Mikovec, Briefe des Joh. Hus (Leipzig, 1849)

Bretschneider, Der Freiherr von Sandau, oder die gemischte Ehe (Halle, 1839)

Katholisches Fantasten- u. Predigeralmanach (Rom, 1784)

Einige Worte z. Frieden u. zur Verstandigung (Wien, 1848)

Incubationen u. Staatsgefangenen (Braunschweig, 1827)

Das Friedenslicht im heitere Morgenblau (Wien, 1850)

Biolehradsky, Nový obraz zemí českoslovanských (Praha, 1850)

Painer´s theologische Werke, (Stolberg, 1848)

Julius, Briefe (Leipzig, 1848)

Machiavelli, Il principe e egli opuscoli storici e politici (Capolago, 1849)

Peska, Slova do kneh pamatnych (Praha, 1849)

Desprez, Les peuples de l´Autriche, Ku zrizení obci v zemi konstitucni (Praha, 1849).

Copy of this list is now being made available. Most books mentioned are identified by information on the place and time of publishing; the list however includes also some vague items such as "a box of damaged books", "a box of 56 brochures of mostly historic content published in Russia", many copies of Nektere povesti published in Kutna Hora in 1851, etc. 

Reconstruction of Havlicek library

An attempt to reconstruct Havlicek library, "a diffused torso", was made in 1957. The reconstruction was based on the list of the left estate and books prepared by Havlicek´s historian P. Kneidl. His text Havlickova knihovna[3] (the part "Havlicek Library catalogue") can be considered as the only original source, even though interest in its content predominates. This catalogue opens door to the content of the previously voluminous Havlicek personal library and allows us to identify traceable items. Under our project, items identified by Kneidl during his search were located in most cases. Also, several publications Kneidl didn't know of have been found.

Kneidl based his work on a list of Havlicek library from 1840-1841 containing 115 items, a list from 1842 containing 149 items and a catalogue notebook entitled "Registered Books" originating from 1842-1855. He concluded that at its prime time, Havlicek library had 1,216 volumes (multiple copies or copies of Voltaire's Nektere povesti translated and published by Havlicek in 1951 were not considered).

The whereabouts of these lists are today (fifty years after being used by Pravoslav Kneidl) unknown and we had to base our research only on Kneidl´s article. (Kneidl claims that Havlicek´s lists have been stored at the Literary Archive of the National Museum, renamed later as the Literary Archive of the Museum of Czech Literature; however, a list of Ruzena Hamanova, who prepared the list of Havlicek´s left estate maintained at the MCL, fails to mention them.)

Karel Havlicek held books in high esteem and did not regret spending money on them. By mid-19th century standards, Havlicek library was considered extraordinarily large. Havlicek´s need of books is confirmed also by a quotation from his letter to parents: "You know that I am careful with my funds. If I had few thousands per year! I always lack books, even though I posses many and many, this is a part of my trade. The better craftsman, the more tools he needs. The same applies to books." His need of books is reflected also in another letter sent from his exile to F. Palacky (1852), in which Havlicek regrets "not being in Prague or in another well-educated place; wherever I go, I feel the lack of books." Havlicek´s  personal library (according to P. Kneidl) speaks of a well-educated man interested n catholic religion, Slavic culture, Slavic and Roman languages, folk lore, linguistics, history and natural science.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to say, whether the classification of Havlicek library contained in Kneidl´s article is the work of P. Kneidl or if it is the work of Havlicek himself. For better understanding of Havlicek library structure (reconstructed by P. Kneidl on the basis of Havlicek´s list), we are attaching the following overview:

Section I. Grammar Books (103 items):

Five volumes of Jungmann´s Cesko-nemecky slovnik[4] (published in 1835-1839), Geograficko-topograficky slovnik by Tham[5] and Slovnik Ceskonemeckeho jmen mistnich[6], Dobrovsky´s Mluvnice cili soustava ceskeho jazyka (1822) in interfolio print, Hanek´s Mluvnice polskeho jazyka (1839), publications on Russian, German, Serbian, Hungarian and Illyric language, dictionaries, grammar books, spelling books, Celakovsky´s Ceska dobropisemnost, Nemecko-cesky slovnik by F. Sumavsky, Slovnik hospodarsko-technicky by F. Spatny, textbooks, pocket-size books, Ianua linguarum reserata aurea by J.A. Komensky (Tham edition, 1805), etc.

Section II. National Songs and Proverbs (33 items):

This section reflects Havlicek´s interest in Czech and Slavic songs: Pisne narodni v Cechach by Erben (published in 1842-43), Celakovsky´s Mudroslovi naroda slovanskeho v prislovich (1851), Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian and Moravian folk songs, songs collected by F. Susil, Kollar´s Narodni zpievanky, etc.

Section III. Czech Poems (6 items):

This section includes Milton´s Ztraceny raj[7] (Prague, 1811), Kollar´s Slavy dcera, Celakovsky´s Ohlasy pisni ceskych a ruskych, works of Hanka and Klicpera, Macha´s Maj, Sabina´s poems, Rukopis kralodvorsky, Deklamovanky by Rubes, Jablonsky´s poems, Kytice by K.J. Erben, almanacs, legends, epic, lyric and "funny heroic" poems.

Section IV. Theatre, Short Stories (87 items):

Besides Bulgarin and K. Pichlerova[8], this section includes short stories, legends, harlequinades, tragedies, rhymed comic plays, translations of Gogol´s works (published 1846), Swift´s Gulliverovy cesty (published 1852), W. Shakespeare, Klicpera, Tyl and B. Nemcova´s Babicka (1855).

Section V. Miscellaneous (20 items):

Maps, books and large size publications, geographic atlases, criminal codes, judicial documents, economic books, books on plants and catalogues.

Section VI. General History Works (64 items):

Safarik, Historie literatury ceske by Jungmann (1825), chronicles, histories, memoirs, archives, general history documents, Balbin, Tomicek, Lamartine, Celakovsky, Tomek´s Deje kralovstvi ceskeho (published 1850), biographies, English history, genealogical history, Austrio-Hungarian history.

Section VII. Foreign Poems (15 items):

Schiller, Andersen, Herder, Lessing, 12 volumes of Shakespeare.

Section VIII. Magazines (31 items):

Casopis Ceskeho Museum, Kvety, Ceska vcela, Pohlady slovanske na literaturu, umenie a zivot, Prazske noviny, Hospodarske noviny, etc.

Section IX. Important Czech Works (46 items):

Includes mainly publications for general education - natural science, physics, forestry, calculus, Zakladove pitvy, Dcerka by Jan Hus, Didaktica by Komensky, books on plants, medicine, geography, rhyme book, etc.

Section X. Important Foreign Works (76 items):

Latin Bible, works by Spinoza, Cervantes (Don Quijote), Jean Paul, B. Bolzano, legends, agriculture, physics, commerce, law, theology, gardening, encyclopedias, balneology, military.

Section XI. Foreign Miscellaneous (80 items):

Publications on diplomacy, travelling, schooling, chemistry, medicine, religion, aphorisms, calendars, politics.

Section XII. Czech Miscellaneous (50 items):

Several old prints and small (now valuable) calendars, legends of saints, linguistics, guides, Havlicek´s Epistoly Kutnohorske (published 1851), moral, prison system. List of Czech books, paintings and musical products, Klacel´s Slovnik pro ctenare novin (Brno, 1849).

Section XIII. Various (30 items):

Macchiavelli´s Il principe e gli opuscoli storici e politici (Carlopago, 1849), Divinum officium. Glagolitica by V. Hanka (1854), Sacrosanctum Concilium Tridentinum cum citationebus ex utroque testamento (Pragae, 1736), etc.

Section XIV. Old Literature (17 items):

Tacitus, Martialis, Salloustius, Seneca, Sbirka reckych a rimskych klasiku, translations.

Section XV. Russian Books (50 and 63 items):

Russian and Ukrainian books and brochures bought or otherwise gained by Havlicek in Russia, including Russian translation of Safarik´s Slovanske starozitnosti. Works of A.S. Pushkin, W. Shakespeare, I.A. Krylov, I.I. Tatiscev, T.G. Sevcenko and Russian magazines.

Section XVI. Polish Books (43 items):

Mickiewicz´s  Księgi narodu Polskiego i pielgrzymstwa polskiego (published in 1832), Falenski´s Historya Polski krotko zebrana (Wroclaw, 1819), Manifest Towarzystwa demokratycznego polskiego 4 Grudnia 1836. (Poitiers; Paris, Bourgogne et Martinet), Pienkiewic´s Wybor poezyi z pisarzów polskich. I. -VII. (Wilno, 1835-36)[9], etc.

Section XVII. Serbian and Illyric books (10 items):

Molodik na 1843 god. Ukrainskij literatunyj sbornik (Charkov, 1843), Poltava. Poema by A.S. Pushkin (published in 1836), Kvitka-Osnovjanenko by G. F. Svrjatanje. Malorossijskaja opera v dejstvijach soč. Gricka Osnovjanenka (Charkov, 1836), etc.

Oddíl XVIII. Russian and Ukrainian books (8 items):

Russkije narodnyje skazki  by Sacharov (published in 1841), Safarik´s Slavjanskoje narodopisanije (published 1843), Perelogov´s Francuzskaja grammatika (published 1832), Bodjanski´s O narodnoj poezii slavjanskich plemen (published 1837), etc.

Attached is a complete list of books prepared by P. Kneidl together with transliterated list of books in Russian alphabet.


Books newly identified to have belonged to Havlicek library

We have started by searching for items listed by Kneidl where information on the place of storage was included. Back in 1957, Pravoslav Kneidl laboriously reconstructed a torso of "known about" items; fifty years later, in 2008, the reconstruction was even more difficult. However, we have succeeded to identify also several publications considered as missing by Kneidl.

According to the latest research, the National Museum Library in Prague possesses the following books from Havlicek´s personal library:

Tham, K.I. Neuester möglichst ausführliches und vollständiger deutsch-böhmischer geographisch-topographisch-mythologischer Taschen-Nomenclator, oder, Nenner eigener Nahmen. Prag: Scholl'schen Buchdruckerey, 1815. This publication contains many notes by Havlicek on local Czech names, on names originating from Slovakia and other Slavic countries as well as other places (especially those linked somehow to Czech countries). The cover of the publication is missing, the book is interfoiled. The cover-board is autographed by Havlicek.

Milton, J. Ztraceny raj. W Praze: Bohumil Has, 1811. Part I-II. Both volumes include Havlicek´s signature: „K.I. Havlicek, 1839". In the Museum library we have found only the first volume.

Eckertshausen, Hofrath von. Was tragt am meisten zu den Revolutionen itziger Zeiten bey? Und Welches ware das sicherst Mittel, ihnen kunftig  vorzubeugen? Eine Schrift zur Beherzigung fur Fursten une Volker. Geschrieben von dem... München: Joseph Lentner, 1791.[10] The book is autographed by Havlicek and inscribed to him and it includes probably his drawing.

Pienkawicz, A.M. Wybor Poezyj z pisarzow polskich: z dołączeniem przy 1szym sposzycie uwag o istotnem zrzodle, duchu i celu prawdziwéj poezyi. Sposzyt 7. Wilno: J. Zawadzki, 1836.  With Havlicek´s signature.

Venecek uvit tricetilete pamatce nalezeni Rukopisu Kralodvorskeho. Slaveno dne 16. zari 1847 Kralove Dvore. By Jan C. Brdicka, Kralodvorsky. V Praze: printed by imperial-archbishop printing house. Autographed by Havlicek.

Josefa Smetany...Sjlozpyt čili Fysika. W Praze: published by Ceske museum, w kommissj u Kronbergera i Rivnace, 1842. Nowoceska Biblioteka, No. II. Autographed by Havlicek.[11]


At the Museum Vysociny in Havlickuv Brod, the following books originating from Havlicek´s personal library were found:

Jungmann, J. Slownjk cesko-nemecky. Prague: Knjzecj arcibiskupska knihtiskarna, J. Fetterlowé, rjzenjm W. Spinky, 1835. Djl I-V.  With the signature of K. Havlicek. It is a gift of Prof. Dr. J. Jerie to the Town of Havlickuv Brod (30 October 1948). The book is mentioned in Havlicek´s list "Registered Books", not in the list of his left estate.

Hornik. Almanach na rok 1844. Compiled and published by Petr Miloslav Weselsky. Kutna Hora (Na Horach Kutnach): s.n. [1844]. With the signature of K. Havlicek.

Slovan: [casopis venovany politickym a vubec verejnym zalezitostem slovanskym, zvlaste ceskym]. [Kutna Hora: Karel Havlicek], 1851. [Vol. 1], No. 42. Contains the signature of K. Havlicek and his handwritten notes.

Bulgarin, T. Iwan Wyzihin: powidka zabawna a poucna. Praha: W. Spinta, 1842. No. III. In Prague, 1840. With K. Havlicek´s autograph.

Pichlerova, K. Swedove w Praze. Znojmo: E.J. Fournier, 1844. Part 1. With the signature of K. Havlicek.

D´Baculard, Arnaud Francois. Arnauds Erzählungen. Leipzig: J.G. Imman, 1783. 1. Bd. With the signature of K. Havlicek. The book is mentioned in Havlicek´s list of "Registered Books", not in the list of his left estate.

Palacky, F. Dejiny narodu ceskeho w Cechach a w Morave. Praha: published by J.G. Kalve and Czech Museum, 1850. Part III., No. 1, Od roku 1403 do 1424, cili od pocatku nepokojuw husitskych az po smrt Zizkowu. With the signature of K. Havlicek.

Neumann, Pantaleon. Lutr, jak stal pro wiru a cirkew katolickau. Praha: published by Dedictwi Swatojanskeho, 1850. No. XXV. With the signature of K. Havlicek.


The Literary Archive of the MCL retains in Havlicek´s left estate also several prints, which probably were part of Havlicek´s personal library. Kneidl probably did not examine this collection. Kneidl claims that the MCL keeps the following books, probably from Havlicek library, which (according to the bookplates) "passed through the library of Vladimir Dvorsky": Virgilius Maro Opera, Norimbergae 1778, 2. ex. Hallae 1790 and G.J. Caesar Commentarii de bello gallico et civili. Patavii 1754. However, they were not located.

The following books were identified instead:

Thun, Leo Grafen von. Über den gegenwärtigen Zustand der bömischen Literatur und ihre Bedeutung. Prague: Kronberger und Riwnac, 1842. Only the cover with Havlicek´s signature survived.

Celakowsky, F.L. Spisu basnickych knihy sestery. Prague: Kronbergra and Rivnac, 1847. 404 pgs. Ed. Nowoceska biblioteka, No. 8, Spisy musejni, No. 28. With the signature of K. Havlicek and with highlighted text.

Der Deutsche Michel: ein Blatt für feinde des Zopfthums. [Tabor]: [I.L. Kober], 1848, No.1. The book does not indicate the ownership of K. Havlicek and it is not listed in Havlicek´s left estate list. However, taking into account the publication year, it could have belonged to Havlicek library.

Bound collections of small prints - Czech songs published by various publishers, 1842-48. Most songs in this volume refer to the political and civic situation in the Austria-Hungarian Empire, to patriotic topics and the 1848. We may suppose that even though the collection does not bear Havlicek´s signature or notes, Borovsky, a patriot, probably cherished these national patriotic songs and had these small prints bound.

The report of J. Thon about the Prague Central Library (now Prague Municipal Library) having once purchased an annual volume of the Kvety magazine, which allegedly included Havlicek´s notes, was examined by Kneidl, however, with no success. In his article[12] on Havlicek´s bibliographic work, Thon stated that the Prague Municipal Library has in its historical collections Auplny literarni letopis by J.V.J. Michl, Prague, 1839. Thon said that the cover page is autographed and dated by Havlicek: "K. Havlicek, 1841". He continues: Havlicek had "the book bound in fabric and between each printed sheet a blank page was inserted for corrections and amendments"; hereby he "changed" the book into an interfolio print. The book was gained before 1910 through an en bloc purchase from V.V. Tomek, a historian. How it became Tomek´s possession cannot be said; however, it is sure that this book was not on the list of Havlicek left estate. Thon continues: "It is possible that Havlicek lent his copy (with notes) to Tomek, whom he was meeting frequently in 1840´s and with whom he was on friendly terms. Havlicek was Tomek´s best man at his wedding in 1847 in Police (they travelled there together by coach from Pardubice). Year later, Tomek was Havlicek´s best man at his wedding. It is known that Tomek, at that time a Secretary of Matice Ceska, was tasked with finishing Jungmann´s Historie literatury ceske after Jungmann´s death. The book was nearly finished during Jungman´s life and Tomek was asked to prepare the index and biographic parts. It can be supposed that Tomek was well aware of Havlicek´s notes in Michl´s biography and that he borrowed the book to help him with his work."

From the copy of Michl´s Letopis it is not possible to find out exactly when in 1841 Havlicek got this book. He started to make bibliographic notes not because of some bibliographic ambitions but (since he was a practical man) for practical needs - to extend his knowledge. He also intended to look at theological literature and to make amendments, as Thon later did himself. Thon later said that "the examination of Havlicek´s bibliographic records shows that he was writing these notes continuously in order to keep a living picture of the current literature - i.e. picture of literature "from 1825 until summer 1837".

Havlicek had been organizing his bibliographic notes until the year 1845. Thon claims that over five years, Havlicek collected about 475 brief bibliographic key-words (with the publisher´s name shortened, in case of plays the number of acts was expressed by a number, plus format and the number of pages). Havlicek never fails to mention the price of the book. When examining Havlicek´s notes closely, we can distinguish two epochs with different letters and different bibliographic methods.

Thon concludes his bibliographic analysis of Michl´s book by calling this a Havlicek´s bibliographic attempt; he would like to know, what were Havlicek´s sources for his notes and when were they written. Thon is sure that "Havlicek had a copy of Letopis with him in Russia. He went on working in Moscow, worked with the Ceske museum magazine (the New Books column) and kept taking notes from Musejnik on blank pages of his Letopis copy." Thon also examined Havlicek´s notes on the cover board and back board of the books which are not of bibliographic kind, but which reflect Havlicek´s wit and critical mind (e.g. quotations noted on the cover board).

During the examination of Havlicek´s personal library, a print with Tomek´s signature but without interfolies and without Havlicek´s signature was found at the Prague Municipal Library collections. At the same time, fourth part of the Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches: Grossentheils aus bisher unbenützeten by Joseph con Hammer-Purgstall published in Pest in 1840 autographed by Havlicek was located. Old collections of the Prague Municipal Library may host yet more Havlicek´s books. This, however, would require further extensive research.

Out of the large Havlicek library, a total of 24 items was found and 21 of them most probably belonged to Havlicek (as indicated by Havlicek´authograph[13]). How many Havlicek´s books may be found in the future remains a question. We are left with only a small fraction of his library and with a list of its items demonstrating the deep intellectual insight of a journalist and writer and the founder of Czech journalism, satire and literary review, but mainly a patriot Karel Havlicek Borovsky.


[1] Vitrinka, 1926. p. 26-27.

[2] (In September 1909).

[3] Havlicek library, Sbornik Narodniho muzea, C, vol. II, 1957, No. 1-2, pp. 53-98.

[4] Today at the Highlands Museum in Havlickuv Brod.

[5] Today at the National Museum Library.

[6] Today at the National Museum Library. 

[7] Today at the National Museum Library.

[8] Both are today at the Highlands Museum in Havlickuv Brod.

[9] Today at the Museum of Czech Literature.

[10] J. Volf writes about this book in his article Rizny epigram Havlickuv, published by the Ceske museum magazine 1913.

[11] Havlicek´s autographs included in this and in the preceding item were not digitalized as the collections of the National Museum Library were being moved. When possible, copies will be made. 

[12] Knihopisny pokus Karla Havlicka Borovskeho, Slovanska knihoveda, III, 1934.

[13] One volume found at the Highlands Museum contains the K.H.Borovsky´s inscription to the "Highly esteemed Miss Hana Weychovska".